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Guns, Germs, and Steel

by Jared Diamond

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The three major elements that separate the world's "haves" from "have-nots" according to Jared Diamond


According to Jared Diamond, the three major elements that separate the world's "haves" from "have-nots" are geographic luck, access to domesticable plants and animals, and the diffusion of agriculture. These factors allowed certain societies to develop complex structures, technology, and political organization, leading to economic and military advantages over less fortunate societies.

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What are the three major elements that separate the world's "haves" from "have nots" according to Jared Diamond?

Diamond identifies a number of factors that are advantageous to developing complex societies. First, geography and climate play a large role in determining the direction in which a society will develop. Climate plays a determining factor in the development of agriculture, which Diamond sees as essential to the rise of all the other cultural and technological advances that separate the “haves” from the “have-nots.” Geography plays an important role in the dissemination of crops from one area to the next; continents with east-west orientations (like Eurasia) make it easier for crops to spread since climate tends to be similar at the same latitude. The rise of food production made higher population densities possible, which in turn led to the rise of towns and cities. Surplus food production meant that not everyone had to do agricultural labor; this, in turn, led to the rise of political, intellectual, and military classes and the invention of writing, government, and metalworking (including steel). Finally, the advent of domesticated livestock production exposed these societies to a range of diseases, thus granting them immunity. However, the same diseases became deadly to other societies who had not developed immunity.

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What are the three major elements that separate the world's "haves" from "have nots" according to Jared Diamond?

According to Jared Diamond's theory, after much research, he determined that there are several elements that separate societies into successful or unsuccessful are:


-Immunity and exposure to germs

-Domestication of animals

-Food production

-The discovery and use of steel

Diamond places less emphasis on intelligence and more emphasis on how people choose to live.  When hunter/gatherer groups decided to settle down and grow their food instead of moving from place to place in search of animals to hunt, their society became more stable.

"What then inevitably follows is the development of specialized labor groups as well as the establishment of hierarchies in ruling parties. Populations thrive under these conditions, and in time empires rise. The stability provides farming societies with powerful advantages over nomadic hunter-gatherer groups,"   

"Other impediments to progress included large bodies of water or land barriers such as mountains and deserts."

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What three major elements separate the world's haves from the have-nots?

Jared Diamond argues that the three major factors that separate the haves from the have-nots in world history are the development of agriculture, the accident of geography, and resistance to infectious diseases.

Diamond attributes these three factors to the rise and dominance of European culture, particularly in the last five hundred years. He says this rise has nothing to do with innate superiority or intelligence on the part of Europeans, but on developments that in hindsight seem largely accidental.

The Europeans adopted agriculture early, due to the accident or good luck of the presence of many wild wheat crops suitable to cultivation in the Fertile Crescent, which spread northward. The Europeans also had the good luck to find an easy supply of animals suitable for domestication. With abundant and relatively secure food supplies from these two sources, European (including Middle Eastern) society was able to diversify and develop technological expertise and complex writing systems that would later give it advantages over other groups, such as Native Americans and Indigenous Australians.

A geography that lacked natural barriers also assisted European development, as groups living in that part of the world were able to benefit from cross-cultural exchange. They had more opportunity to borrow and build on the achievements of other cultures than more isolated areas of the world.

Finally, the Europeans had a significant advantage early on in developing an immunity to many illnesses that wiped out native populations. Diamond attributes this, in part, to their living in close quarters with domesticated animals. Europeans contracted diseases from these animals and subsequently developed immunities to them.

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